19 Dec 2012

Top 5 Aussie Living Books

Okay, this post is over to you gals.  Brandy has asked for our Top 5 Living Books. That is really, really hard, Brandy.  Imagine if I asked you for your top five American books!

So, off the top of my head I've listed five wonderful literature books plus a few special interest extras. Is it a definitive list?  Who knows! What do you think, girls? Good?  Bad?  Just okay? 

I'm going to suggest the following: 

What I'd love people to do is to agree or disagree with my choices.  As with my other lists, if you add something, you need to remove something in its place.  If you could give a reason for your choice then I'd love to hear it.  If the book is readily available, or better still in print, then all the better. Let's see if we can make a list of the top five Aussie Living Books.  For Brandy, of course.  But also for us.  Just because this kind of stuff is fun.  Well, for me it is anyhow.

Okay then, on with the show...



Aboriginal Legends

Australian Animals

  • Spotty the Bower Bird and Other Stories by E S Sorenson

Christian music

  • Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa by Colin Buchanan


  1. Thank you for posting this list...I was actually thinking about asking the same question, as I'd love to read some good Aussie books with my kids - they were all born there after all. =) The addition of "Baa Baa Doo Baa Baa" made me smile too - the international school I taught at in PNG had an Australian principal and he introduced us to Colin Buchanan - and that song in particular. =) Thanks for sharing.
    Jen (MamaSnow)

  2. I'd better add that these are not my favourite books. Stradbroke Dreamtime, in particular, is quite an uncomfortable read, but I think it is good to look at our Aboriginal heritage as well, and this book is probably the best, although I could be convinced by My Place, possibly.

    What about Blinky Bill and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie? Should they get a spot? The Getting of Wisdom? We only have five spots, remember.

  3. Oh Dear, I didn't like My Place at all. I really,really dislike The Magic Pudding. I know it's a classic. I know it's hugely popular but I loathed it as a child & I can't stand it now. So many of the characters strike me as plain nasty. I would replace it with Pastures of the Blue Crane which is a thoughful study of dissociation & our *Blackbirds*.

  4. So do you like Stadbroke Dreamtime, Ganeida, or do you have an alternative Aboriginal title?

  5. My List
    John of the Sirius- Doris Chadwick
    Saddle of Bontharambo - HJ Samuel
    Cousins Come Lately - Eve Pownall
    Switherby Pilgrims (& sequel Jamberoo Road) - Eleanor Spence
    Gully of Gold - Mavis Thorpe Clark

    Ash Road - Ivan Southall
    Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner
    Blinky Bill - Dorothy Wall
    Tangara - Nan Chauncy
    Boundary Riders - Joan Phipson

    Aboriginal :
    Little Black Princess - Aenus Gunn
    Land of the .... People series - Percy Trezise (pic bks)

    Sarli the Turtle - Leslie Rees (anything by L Rees)
    King of the Ranges - CK Thompson
    Spotty the Bower Bird - ES Sorenson

    AB Patterson (like illustrated single poem books for younger children)
    CJ Dennis (appeals to my children, not necessarily me)
    Mary Gilmore
    John O'Brien

  6. So given that Brandy asks for five, Erin, which will you chose? I know, I'm hard...

  7. mm I was hoping she meant 5 in each category;) Can't sneak anything by you;) Taking the top one from each category

    John of the Sirius- Doris Chadwick
    Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner
    Little Black Princess - Aenus Gunn
    Sarli the Barrier Reef Turtle - Leslie Rees
    Around the Boree Log - John O'Brien

  8. I love reading your lists. Though we're Yankies, "The Magic Pudding" tops both our boys' lists as their favorite books - Max says it ties with "The Phantom Tollbooth" for him.

    ...and I think Colin Buchanan taught our kids more Bible verses than I have been able.

  9. Jeanne I'm not sure I would recommend any of the *Aboriginal* titles I know though I've certainly read & enjoyed things like The Little Black Princess. The older books smack of paternalism [which I find offensive] & the newer ones are full of reverse racism [also offensive]. I can't think off hand of anything without political overtones. It is one reason I like Pastures of the Blue Crane so much. It discuss a little known aspect of our history in a non~judgemental, non~political inoffensive way as a jolly good story of a girl finding herself.

    I was sorry Kath Walker became so political. Her earlier poetry, which tended not to be political, was so much better! Perhaps I have my priorities wrong but I don't think people should use *Art* as a political bandwagon. You have to be very, very good indeed to be able to do that & get away with it!

  10. I totally agree with you, Ganeida. I love Little Black Princess, but can I recommend it to modern American children? Probably not. I have read it to my Aussie girl though. Your comments on modern books are spot on as well. I think we need someone like Anita Heiss to write a kid's book. What about Boori Monty Prior? Have you read any of his books? Maybe I should.

  11. I haven't read Boori Monty Prior. I can't remember the name but there is a set about farm children attending school but they annoyed me as well.

    An oral tradition does not necessarily translate well into the written expression & I do expect certain things from a written text: I expect it to be intelligible without needing translating; I expect it to have elements of plot & character; I expect it to cross cultural divides & be in the most fundamental aspects *universal* in scope; I expect "story over moral"; I expect to be moved in some way | either spiritually or emotionally. If I want a sermon I go to church. It I want political hectoring I attend a rally. Stories should be just that first & foremost: stories!

  12. Bit more time to write now, I'm with Ganeida on Magic Pudding, just 'didn't get it'. Do love Storm Boy but love 7 Lil Aust more. never read the book but Picnic at Hanging rock just sooo scary (what did happen..???)

    Ganeida, I do understand what you mean re Aboriginal books which is why I hesitated to include Little Black Princess, but with discussion it is quite a learning tool. when we did an intensive aboriginal study a few years back I approached some local elders asking for book recommendations etc, they couldn't really give me any as much is oral history and not written down. I did have an offer to head out to a distant 'local' school and participate in a kangaroo hunt and join in at school afterwards, can't remember why that didn't happen.
    Used to love Kath Walker, she did lose something.
    LOVED the pastures of the Blue Crane, the first book as a teen to really make me think, do think it for teens though, too deep for younger children.

    Was thinking about this list all night, I guess book lists are rather subjective, ie some books I choose are due to my childhood reaction/memory, one like 'Boree Log' speaks to me because of my Irish Catholic roots, I nearly included So Far From Skye- Judith O'Neill it speaks to me because it is near your heritage and my dear friend M's (Free Presbyterian) .

  13. What about Follow the Rabbitproof Fence? The movie is political; the book is far more balanced. I think Bett Bett is out. Too racially inappropriate when even American mum (Mom!) is not aware of the issues.

    I love Magic Pudding. I give it to all my overseas friends too!

    Brandy's oldest is about Jemimah's age, just to give you a bit of pers[pective...

  14. Oh, and you can't have just O'Brien for poetry...unless you're Catholic of course ;). That's why I wimped out and chose an anthology. Bit of Patterson, bit of Lawson, bit of O'Brien, bit of C J, Mary Hannay Foott, Kendall... Oh my we have some good poets for kids!

  15. Jeanne
    The movie (Rabbit proof fence) has a few 'adult' moments that I hesitate to show my middle set, have never read the book, what age would you recommend?
    Okay you've convinced me I should retry the Magic Pudding, perhaps it is one of those books that will look different through my children's eyes.
    Ah I see your reasoning for an anthology and I concur, anthology stays!:) How could I forget Kendall, love Kendall.

  16. What about Papunya School Book of Country and History? That might be better.

    I read Rabbit-proof Fence with Jemimah this past year, since I was reading it myself for bookclub. It was terrific, although I think the discussions would have been better around 13 or 14.

    This is fun. I wish others would join in.

  17. Some of our favourites:

    Verity of Sydneytown - Ruth C. Williams
    Walkabout - James Vance Marshall (Aboriginal boy in story – great read aloud)
    We of the Never Never - Mrs Aeneas Gunn
    Sun on the Stubble - Colin Thiele (slight editing for the younger ones)
    Currency Lass - Margaret Reeson (older girls)

    Christian Music
    Sons of Korah

    The Call of the Gums - poetry anthology
    The 10 Bushcraft Books - Richard Graves

  18. Jeanne
    Thinking..material for another post, what about top picture books? Haven't read Papunya, but do remember your enthusiasm.

    So excited to find you blog! Love your post on Fredrick McCubbin:) Off for a good read:)
    I nearly included Verity, see I think only 5 is too hard:(

  19. http://ohpeacefulday.blogspot.com.au/2010/01/10-of-best-aussie-picture-books.html?m=1

    Your wish is my command!

  20. I asked my 16 yr old and he suggested:
    Seven Little Australians, Ethel Turner
    Koronglea Cobbers, Fae Hewston Stevens
    The Long Walk, Kerry Greenwood
    The Billabong Series Mary Grant Bruce
    Riding with Thunderbolt The Diary of Ben Cross

    I think Id substitute Year of the Currawong by Eleanor Spence and the High Valley by Colin Thiele

  21. As a girl I really enjoyed Storm Boy, then as a teenager, The Getting of Wisdom, For the Term of his Natural Life and the The Shiralee. As for poets, adored CJ Dennis. I didn't mind Hanging Rock but never left that big an impression on me ... til I picniced there one day myself ... lol Of course these are books I remember from my childhood and your list has made me wish to reread them to see what I think of them as an adult and maybe introduce them to my own girls. Thanks so much.

  22. How can I never have heard of Fae Hewson Stevens when she was born 30 km away from where I live? She is now on my list.

    Thanks Anon's son!

  23. What about some books for primary aged kids, girls. These are fantastic, by the way. I had forgotten The Shiralee, and am now totally intrigued by Fae Hewson Stevens!

  24. OK, I admitt I read the Shiralee before I was properly in my teens [I was occasionally precocious that way] but don't really think it' can be classed as a children's book. Love it to bits but...

    The Getting of Wisdom should definitely be on any list though I am ambivilant about it.

    Would second Sun on the Stubble & anything at all by Eleanor Spence. She seems to have been forgotton but so much of her work touches on difficult themes. I remember her portrait of a travelling Fair family particularly but it was one of the first of hers I read. Verity of Sydney Town is good but I would do Elizabeth Wilton's A Ridiculous Idea in preference.

    And while we're at it has anyone else come across Dora Joan Potter & the *Winterton* school stories?

  25. Ok, well I thought about it a little for the day and here is what I like:

    Storm Boy
    Playing Beatie Bow
    Blinky Bill

    That leaves me two more spots to come back and fill in at a later date. :o)

  26. Ok - scratch Playing Beatie Bow OFF my list.

    Oh how the years and God can change a person.

  27. Jeanne, I am hard pressed to remember any Aussie books from my "tween" years. Great books for littlies and older teens but there seems to be a gap for kids around 8-12 which is not good as that's around both my girls ages. I just read a review of a book called Lizzie Nonsense that might be good but I can't see what age it's aimed at. I have been noting down all these wonderful book suggestions!

  28. Well now just added to your pic bk list;)

    Anon - Have Koronglea Cobbers, been a long time since I've read it. Just finished reading my daughter's Christmas pressie Seahawk - Mary Grant Bruce.

  29. Hi Jeanne,
    My son has all the Fae Hewston Stevens' books, some quite difficult to find. He also did all the research about her when he was younger. His favourite is Koronglea Holidays. He is always asking me to read them aloud to his brothers. I am only anonymous because I rarely comment on blogs and cant work the profile thingy out. Great book recommendations here. Margaret.

  30. Primary aged - mine all enjoyed the Spindles books by Barry Chant and River Murray Mary by Colin Thiele.

  31. Why don't you like Beatie Bow, Deborah? I think it is pretty good!

  32. Love your list - Storm Boy is just to sad though. I would have included Mary Grant Bruce, I loved her books as a young girl.

  33. I love Mary Grant Bruce as well, but do any of her books merit top 5 status as as stand alone?

  34. Yay! I'm just seeing this! I'm going to try and acquire them for the family library. Thank you so much!

    Yes, sorry for the bigness of the request. I suppose I should also go through your lesson plans. I assume Marshall never wrote about Australia? I ask because I keep meaning to pick up her books about Scotland, France, and Germany.

  35. Marshall wrote about Australia in Our Empire Story, but only up to 1900. I'd love her French book as well.

  36. Does I can Jump Puddles rate anywhere on this list?

  37. Such a wonderful conversation here on such a great topic! Most of my faves have been mentioned.
    I loved the Billabong books as most seem to have, but I think you are right that alone one particular book doesn't stand out. Also, while I wanted to be Norah and found her life intriguing I don't really think it was very typically Australian. Not for for a bush kid. That squatter aristocracy did exist but I doubt it was quite so jolly and romantic as the books protray!
    I'm not a Magic Pudding fan either. I did love Blinky Bill but my hubby objected to the children having much of him (as he seemed to bea greenie) I remember when we had our dozer
    contracting business and I took my girls to see a Blinky Bill movie wherethe dozer driver was the bad guy. Dad was horrified with the rubbish they brought home!
    With Erin, I have an Irish RC background, and even today as a bible believing Christian, O'Briens poems are among my favourites! Only a person brought up in such a home can appreciate lines like...."With a glory, Dada, glory and he's glory like a shot!" (That's for you Erin!)from the Trimmin's of the Rosary.
    I recently reread The sun on the Stubble (after it was mentioned in another post here, Jeanne) and I was struck by the similarities to the life and happenings written about in my uncle Family History. It made me think that is a very realistic picture of Aust. in that period.
    As an older person I loved Hanging Rock and The Getting of Wisdom. I am not a literature buff so I usually go purely on what I like and don't :-)
    No help with a list of five, but have enjoyed reading everyones favourites.

  38. P.S. I liked I can jump puddles when I read it years ago and we have read it here in school, however the two following Allen Marshall books seriously deteriate :-( I guess one can't help that in an autobiography if that is the way your life went?

  39. We've read (and loved) the first on the list, thanks to you! I was sad that the Librivox version isn't read by an Australian, though. Do you know of anywhere that we could find audio that would let my children hear the way you talk? :-)

  40. Puggle (8 this year) has read I can jump puddles and the magic pudding this year, and really enjoyed both. Storm Boy was already a favorite:-) there are a good list here for me to follow up:-)

  41. Ruby
    I know what you mean, love the Trimmin's and have to say in our 'disrespectful youth' we called our mum's trimmin's 'zip-pe-do-dah's ' blush.
    Love, love love the Parting Rosary, oh I cry and cry every time.

    It's been a long time since I've read I can Jump Puddles, but I do remember being moved by it, I must say from my vague memory that I'm extremely impressed with an 8yr old reading/listening to it!!!

    re Mary Grant Bruce I'd agree with you all, a great read but.. light fun.

    Golly Phyllis has a great question, any audios read by Aussies?

  42. Wish I'd known about this list last year when we studied Australia! Found you through Brandy at Afterthoughts!

  43. I'm friends with Brandy, but born and bred Aussie. I am a year or so away from officially homeschooling but nonetheless and am enjoying the pre-journey and getting my wits about me. I'm curious why Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are not on the list. My 4 year old is enchanted with it at the moment, moreso than I anticipated. But Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is a classic!

  44. Love your site, by the way. A treasured resource.

  45. If I'd have been allowed 10 books Snugglepot and Cuddlepie would have earned a guernsey, as would Blinky Bill. I chose the books I did because I think they appeal more to an American audience without any prior knowledge of Australia. The final version that I sent to Brandy substituted Papunya School Book of Country and History for Stradbroke Dreamtime as well, having taken notice of your comments about the politicisation of the latter.

  46. So if you could pick top ten, what would make the list?

  47. It has been exciting reading all the top fives, thank you for all the suggestions, I look forward to checking them out. Thank you Brandy for asking the question. Tara.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...